FREEPORT, Grand Bahama, March 20, 2020 — The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism and Aviation (BMOTA) partnered with the Public Hospitals Authority this week to present a health seminar on novel coronavirus to taxi drivers and local vendors. The session, held at the Freeport Harbour on March 16, was coordinated to share accurate information regarding the virus and provide general safety precautions to take amid growing concerns.
“It is important to remember that coronavirus is not necessarily a death sentence,” Dr. Frank Bartlett, head of the Grand Bahama Coronavirus Task Force, said. “As much as 80% of the persons who have the infection have no symptoms whatsoever and 15% of the cases end up in hospital.”
Bartlett noted that the elderly and individuals with serious chronic illnesses have accounted for most of the recorded COVID-19-related deaths. However, he warned listeners not to take the pandemic too lightly.
During his remarks, Bartlett provided background information on COVID-19, including its genetic makeup, origin, symptoms and how the virus is spread. He advised the tourism practitioners not to panic, and instead recommended a few everyday safety measures to practice.
“One of the first things you want to make sure you do is stay away from crowds,” Bartlett said. Stay home as much as possible; interact with people as little as possible, but if you have to be in a social setting, maintain a six-foot distance. That is very, very important.”
Acknowledging that the service providers come into contact with visitors daily, he urged them to ensure they are regularly sanitizing the surfaces and spaces where exchanges with guests normally occur.
Bartlett also stressed the importance of employing proper sneeze and cough etiquette, noting that a tissue should always be used to cover the nose and mouth and then immediately disposed of. In the absence of a tissue, the doctor recommended capturing the cough or sneeze in the sleeve.
“There are simple things you can do for prevention,” Bartlett said. “We’re going to call this the saving grace: hand washing. You don’t want to do a quick splash. Washing with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds is recommended. When you don’t have access to a bathroom, have your hand sanitizers. The recommendation is anything above 60% alcohol as the active ingredient. Please make sure that you rub your hands together until completely dry.”
Participating taxi drivers and vendors engaged with Bartlett and asked a number of questions following the presentation.
Steven Johnson, general manager for BMOTA Grand Bahama, said he was pleased to assist in providing the educational session for the community, particularly residents on the front lines of tourism.
“We’re all taking this seriously here. We’re making preparations in case this gets worse,” Johnson said. “For now though, we want to do what we can to bring some more understanding about what this virus is and how it can be prevented, so we can start to ease some of the fear and panic we’re seeing.”
The local BMOTA head also addressed the assembly, advising that they listen to the experts regarding COVID-19 and be cautious of what they believe on social media.
“Let’s pray this thing goes away, and we’ll be back in order soon,” Johnson said. “Let’s continue to do our job here in tourism. We’re going to take Grand Bahama to new heights.”
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